Makerspace Opening Date Set at Hannaford Career Center


Last year’s Makers Faire at the Hannaford Career Center.

MIDDLEBURY — After months of hard work and preparation, the long-anticipated Addison County Makerspace will open to the public at the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center beginning the first week of November. After a pilot period this summer, the Career Center plans to roll out various programs at the Makerspace throughout the fall, launching with an open house on October 4.

Attendees of the open house will even have the opportunity to sign up for secondary education and adult education courses being taught throughout the fall. According to the Career Center website, the Makerspace will be integrated into existing programs offered on site for students before opening up to the greater community. Three of the space’s “labs” will be open for one day each week from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for the rest of the year as a way to gauge interest and collect data on how the facility can best fit the needs and interests of the community. 

Since the Career Center was founded in 1971, it has focused on providing experiential learning opportunities for teenagers and adults from around Addison County. The new facility will combine its existing resources with new tools to help facilitate the creative process.

The Makerspace project comes amidst a larger nationwide movement to promote and assist a “do-it-yourself” attitude among potential inventors that has arisen over the past decade. The maker movement encourages collaboration and the recycling of ideas to invent new technology and improve old models, a process aided by design sharing or “open-sourcing.”  

Makerspace sites take the idea of “open-sourcing” one step further, by not only creating an in-person forum for the exchange of ideas and methods, but also by providing the physical tools and materials that makers might need for their inventions. But the Makerspace is not just oriented around inventing new technology. 

“The impression should be of making anything, not just things with heavy machinery,” said Devon Karpak, a Career and Tech Ed instructor at the center. Indeed, the facility has various “labs,” that range from costumrey to 3D printing and woodworking.

The launch of the Addison County Makerspace coincides directly with the opening of the Middlebury Environment for Making Everything (MEME) on campus. The creators of this student-inspired makerspace share similar aspirations for MEME as the Career Center has for its own facility. Bill Koulopoulos, the Director of Academic Technology for the College, sees the practical value of these new makerspaces, as well as their educational potential. 

“Places like the Makerspace are involved in the liberal arts education and principles,” he said. “Communicating with somebody, critical thinking skills, problem solving, articulating your design, plus actually building something, I think it all comes together.”

Administrators from the Career Center and from the College are attempting to unite their efforts to make the two new facilities as beneficial as possible for both the College and the community of Addison County.

“There is the desire to make the connections, to have members of the Middlebury College community participate in the Middlebury community, sharing expertise and seeing where we can connect,” said Koulopoulos. “There is a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of interest. It takes a lot of work, effort, understanding and back and forth to make this happen but it is highly rewarding.  Once you open the door, more and bigger things can happen.”

 Dana Peterson, interim superintendent of the Career Center, agreed, adding that the space is intended to be one “where people of all ages come together to learn and share, and where everyone can be both a learner and a teacher.”

Koulopoulos has also taken advantage of the enthusiasm for collaboration in the maker community across Vermont. 

“I visited the Williams makerspace, I went to St. Mike’s, Champlain College and the Generator in Burlington,” Koulopoulos said. “We’ve had conversations, and what I like about all of these people and what they support is that they are all very willing to share expertise and advice.”

Many others are on the same page as Koulopoulos. Last year, Professor Noah Graham of the Physics Department, David Cole ’91 and Dana Peterson were awarded the Middlebury Fund for Innovation Grant. The three put the grant towards creating paid internships for Middlebury students both at MEME and the Career Center Makerspace.

 “Our goal is for the college students to gain both technical and teaching experience while also contributing to technical education at the career center and in the broader community,” said Graham.

While Graham sees the Makerspace as a great opportunity for STEM students, he added that there may also be internship opportunities in other areas, including architecture, education studies, environmental studies, the sciences, studio and performing arts. They are currently accepting applications for the internship through Handshake. 

Cole does not want student involvement to stop there. 

“Beyond the Fund for Innovation grant, there are a lot of incredible things that Middlebury students have to offer from their experiences that they can share,” Cole said, encouraging lasting student involvement.

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